Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., March 14, 15 or 16
In Illinois, an organization called the Grassroots Collaborative offers what it calls a new vision to put people back on the agenda in state government. Released late last month, the “People’s Agenda” proposes a plan for the prosperity of Illinois families across the economic spectrum.
The state of Illinois is not spending too much, the report says, but too little. The state has the fifth largest economy in the country and is the 13th wealthiest state, but it ranks 47th in spending across K-12 education, higher education, health care, public safety, and human services.
“Right now, families are hurting all across Illinois,” stated Amisha Patel, director of the Chicago-based nonprofit advocacy group, a coalition including SEIU, the Chicago Teachers Union, the American Friends Service Committee, and eight other organizations working for the homeless, the hungry, the poor and neighborhoods.
“For over a decade, the state of Illinois has been disinvesting from the vital public services needed to provide opportunity to low and middle income families, create jobs, and bolster the Illinois economy.”
In order to bring Illinois in line with other Midwest states, the People’s Agenda calls for generating new state revenue from those most able to afford it. Its revenue package includes closing corporate loopholes and passing a graduated income tax, a millionaire tax, and a financial transaction tax, which would generate billions of dollars. The report also offers examples of how it could be invested, such as providing pre-K child-care assistance, reducing violence, and ending homelessness.
If such investments were enacted, it would support $4.2 billion in additional economic activity in the state’s economy, the report says.
The People’s Agenda reform package (http://thegrassrootscollaborative.org/sites/default/files/ThePeoplesAgenda.pdf) would: invest in communities and create jobs; create an adequate and equitable funding structure for education; provide for the real needs of Illinoisans in education and human services; modernize the tax structure; and end protections and preferential treatment of corporations, banks and Wall Street over working families.
Nationally, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its People’s Budget for fiscal 2017, featuring a $1 trillion commitment to rebuilding America’s infrastructure that includes billions of dollars to replace contaminated water lines in Flint, Mich.
The budget says its approach would create “3.6 million good paying jobs to push our economy back to full employment, which will provide the necessary economic conditions to spur across-the-board wage growth for hardworking Americans.”
It would also increase spending in virtually every major domestic program category, including education, housing and anti-poverty programs. It also would back making major strides toward a green energy-based economy to fulfill the commitments the United States made at last year’s Paris climate-change accords.
Like Illinois’ Grassroots Collaborative, progressives’ People’s Budget once more proposes making the tax code fairer. The budget would raise the tax rate on investment income to be equal to the tax rate on earned wages, and would add tax brackets of between 45 percent and 49 percent for earnings of more than $1 million.
To address infrastructure, the People’s Budget embraces a new proposal from President Obama to levy a per-barrel tax on oil as an alternative to increasing the gas tax at the pump. The budget also would close corporate tax loopholes, including ones that encourage corporations to hide profits in foreign tax havens.
Also, it includes an increase in the minimum wage, mandated paid sick leave, stronger labor-rights protections, and criminal justice reforms.
“The budget is designed to be a fiscally responsible, economically sound, and common-sense blueprint for how progressive policies can spur economic growth and spread the benefits of economic recovery to communities and families not yet reached by it,” said Isaiah J. Poole of the Campaign for America’s Future. “House Democrats in particular will be judged by their willingness to support the budget – at least as a statement of solidarity with its goals.”
Through a combination of increased revenue and significantly faster economic growth than what’s projected, the federal deficit would fall in 10 years from its current forecast of 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product to just over 2 percent.
(For details on the People’s Budget, go to https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/building-congressional-support-for-the-peoples-budget)
[PICTURED: Photo of Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative from progressillinois.com.]